When you have a race coming up, you naturally want to train so that you are prepared when race day rolls around. This generally includes several weeks or months of practice runs to fine-tune your form and improve your speed.
You also need to experiment with how to fuel and hydrate leading up to the race. If you're just running a 5K, this isn't as essential, but when you run a marathon, for example, nutrition and hydration become a lot more important.
What you eat and drink, and how you do it, could have a dramatic impact on your performance and how you feel before, during, and after a race. Here are just a few mistakes you should avoid when it comes to pre-race meals.
It's natural to want to load up with enough nutrients to keep you energized during your race, but eating too much beforehand can leaving you feeling sick to your stomach or making frequent stops mid-race to use the facilities. For this reason, many seasoned runners eat a larger-than-usual meal the night before a race and have only a small, light breakfast prior to running.
It's important to experiment with different foods, amounts, and eating times well before your race to ensure that you nail down the right equation. Again, this may not have a major impact for a short race, but when you're running for several hours at a stretch, it can make a huge difference in how quickly you run, how comfortable you are, and how many stops you have to make.
Don't forget that this principle applies to water, as well. Drinking tons of water the night before a race or in the morning can also leave you bloated and in need of restroom stops.
Okay, so you've decided that the best way to avoid pit stops and get the fastest race time is by foregoing food altogether. Unfortunately, running a race requires a large expenditure of energy. Failing to ingest enough nutrients to fuel your body can be just as detrimental as eating or drinking too much.
If you under-eat, you may run out of steam partway through the race, or worse, you might suffer from headache, nausea, dizziness, or dehydration. Instead of going to one extreme or the other, try for moderation and figure out the appropriate balance through trial and error.
Carb loading is a common practice before major races like marathons. The idea is to ingest foods that are going to provide energy throughout your race while avoiding issues like nausea, cramps, or lethargy related to other food groups like veggies or fats.
Some runners eat a larger-than-normal, carb-heavy meal the night before a race in preparation for the big day and limit breakfast to something small and light, or skip breakfast if the race begins early in the day. Then they supplement throughout the race with sports drinks, gels, or bars.
Again, practice makes perfect. Carb-loading before a race is popular because it works, but you have to be careful. You can eat pasta, but don't go for high-fat alfredo, for example. You should also eat just slightly more than normal portions, rather than doubling or tripling intake.
This is a major no-no. If you hear about some miracle meal the day before your race, wait until next time so you have time to test it out on a less important jog. Stick to the diet you know will work prior to your race.
Your fueling choices before, during, and after a race can make a difference in how you perform and how quickly you rebound from your efforts. It's not enough to focus just on what you eat and drink before a race - you also need to plan for how you will fuel and hydrate during and after the race, and consider how all of these components work together to elicit the best performance and ensure speedy recovery afterward.
You should have your food options for pre-race and race day planned out well in advance, and you should start hydrating the day before (although not in large quantities). With proper trial and error, you can determine the best way to fuel for your race to ensure optimal race performance and minimal downtime.